Two Counter-Rallies Scheduled for May 17 in Tbilisi

On May 17, which marks the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people, queer activists and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working on human rights plan a protest rally at the governmental administration.

“We have tried hatred many times but it did not bring anything but destruction. We deeply believe that it is time for us to start coexistence with solidarity, mutual labor and mutual respect,” the organizers of the demonstration say.

The statement also reminds people of May 17, 2013 when the gay rights activists holding the rally were met by thousands of protestors opposing homosexuality, who were allowed to break through a police cordon and violently pursued them, beating and throwing stones at them. The 2013 rally, organized by Georgian LGBT-rights organizations was the first officially sanctioned anti-homophobic demonstration held in Georgia.

Anti-LGBT rally of clerics and parish, Tbilisi, May 17, 2013

As reported, 20,000 Georgian Orthodox Church members protested, led by Church priests and a clash took place in Pushkin Park, near Liberty (Freedom) Square, central Tbilisi.  Anti-homophobia demonstrators were evacuated by the police in buses, which were attacked by the counter-demonstrators. According to different sources, up to 28 people were injured as a result of the clashes on May 17, 2013. After that day, the LGBT activists were next able to hold a similar rally on May 17, 2017.

“We, LGBT /queer activists, our friends, family members and supporters, representatives of local and international organizations and, most importantly, free citizens of Georgia, are gathering this Thursday to remind everyone of the disastrous consequences of hate and aggression,” the statement of anti-homophobia groups reads, calling on people to join them on May 17.

The Orthodox Church of Georgia has also scheduled a demonstration on May 17, commemorating the Day of Family Purity.

Clerics, their parish and nationalist groups are going to start the demonstration with an outdoor service at Kashueti Church on Rustaveli Avenue, which is located near the old parliament where the LGBT activists will assemble.

At midday, the Church representatives and their supporters will start a march with the Virgin Mary icon from Rose Revolution Square to the Holy Trinity Cathedral, where, in the afternoon, the Patriarch of Georgia will bless the gathered people and their families.

Mass wedding ceremonies are also planned for May 17. As reported by the Patriarchate, around 400 couples will get married in various churches of Tbilisi.

The Orthodox Church of Georgia announced May 17 as the Family Purity Day in 2014, a year after the parish and anti-LGBT activists attacked the rally of anti-homophobia groups.

The Patriarchate has held demonstrations annually on May 17 since 2013.

The ultra-nationalist, far-right group Georgian March leader, Sandro Bregadze, claims they will hold protest rallies from May 14 until May 17 at the Philarmony. 

"Neither on May 17 nor on other days, will we let anyone hold gay parades in our homeland," Bregadze stated.

By Thea Morrison

Photo source: Reuters

14 May 2018 10:45